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Education Politics


President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address Tuesday evening. “Education” showed up several times in the speech, including the idea that every students need to learn to “write computer code.”

The Department of Education’s Inspector General is auditing Western Governors University over the role faculty have in its competency-based programs, Inside Higher Ed reports. “Previous audits from the inspector general have questioned whether some competency-based programs should be classified as correspondence courses.” (Jonathan Rees has more on this story.)

Via Raw Story: “Virginia GOP bill would require schools to verify children's genitals before using restroom.”

Via The Hill: “House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is warning that a hack on the Department of Education would dwarf last year’s massive breach at the Office of Personnel Management. ‘Almost half of America's records are sitting at the Department of Education,’ Chaffetz said at a Brookings Institution event on Thursday. ‘I think ultimately that’s going to be the largest data breach that we've ever seen in the history of our nation.’”

The Republican presidential candidates had another debate this week, and Common Core was a topic (briefly).

“Bernie Sanders thinks police should investigate campus rape. That’s not enough,” says Vox’s Libby Nelson. Sanders is trying to woo teen voters, according to Wired.

Ben Carson, visiting a school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked students to point out the “worst” one in their class. And they did.

California Governor Jerry Brown says “it’s time to abandon API to judge schools’ performance.” That’s the Academic Performance Index (and my partner Kin Lane will be relieved that this won’t come up in future searches for Application Programming Interface).

Via Education Dive: “Rohit Chopra, a vocal critic as the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has joined the U.S. Department of Education as a senior level official.”

Via the LA School Report: “The LA Unified board … put itself on record as opposing a proposal that originated with the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to expand the number of charter schools in the district in the years ahead.”

The EFF has sent a letter to the Department of Education asking it “to protect university students’ right to speak anonymously online, warning that curtailing anonymous speech as part of anti-harassment regulations would not only violate the Constitution but also jeopardize important on-campus activism.”

Via the NSBA’s Legal Clips blog: “Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) questioning whether ED has exceeded its legal authority in its efforts to push colleges to do more on sexual assault.”

The application for a trademark on “Makerspace” has been rejected by the German Patent and Trademark Office.

Education in the Courts


The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association this week. The case challenges public unions’ ability to collect fees from non-members. Court observers seem certain that the ruling will not be in the union’s favor.

Via the Education Law Center: “Judge James Wilson of the First Judicial District Court of Nevada (Carson City) has ruled in Lopez v. Schwartz that the state’s school voucher law (SB 302) enacted last summer by the Legislature violates two provisions of the Nevada Constitution. Judge Wilson issued a preliminary injunction to prevent the State from implementing the law.”

Testing, Testing…


The latest person to make stuff up about adaptive learning is Virginia’s governor who says “the amount of time students spend taking tests could be cut through computer adaptive tests, although he didn’t provide details.”

Via The Washington Post: “Scores for new PSAT are finally out. What to know about them (and what they mean for redesigned SAT).”

MOOCs and UnMOOCs (a.k.a. Online Education)


Udacity unveiled the “Nanodegree Plus,” a $299/month nanodegree that comes with a money-back guarantee. (Read the fine print.)

“The Economist Group launched Learning.ly, a catalog of proprietary online courses, on January 12,” Edsurge reports.

Via Coursera’s technical blog: “Scaling Content Production.”

Meanwhile on Campus


Via Buzzfeed: “Christian Ott, a young astrophysics professor at Caltech, engaged in ‘discriminatory and harassing’ behavior toward two female graduate students, a university investigation has found.” Caltech has suspended Ott.

Could CUNY community colleges be free? Could Harvard? (It could certainly afford it.)

“University of Oregon cancels high-profile branding/advertising contract,” The Register Guard reports. It will spend the savings on academics instead. Because, ya know, it’s a school.

20 private colleges in Texas have said they will opt out of the state’s new campus carry law.

The Chronicle of Higher Education FOIA’d the emails of Melissa Click, the University of Missouri professor who participated in a protest on campus and was videotaped asking for “muscle” to remove a reporter from the area. (!!!)

Trinity Lutheran College will close, Inside Higher Ed reports.

The City College of San Francisco’s problems continue.

“Bronx Science Bans Cellphones From Wi-Fi as Students Devour It,” says The New York Times.

“Do Metal Detectors in Schools Do More Harm Than Good?” The Atlantic asks.

Tech and business training company General Assembly is expanding to Denver.

“The University of Akron’s LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education building may not open on time due to a contractor dispute,” Cleveland.com reports.

Education Week looks at analytics at AltSchool.

Go, School Sports Team!


Alabama won its fourth national championship in the last seven years by beating Clemson 45–40. (For those keeping score at home, Coach Nick Saban made $7,087,000 in 2015. He’ll get a nice bonus, I’m sure, for winning this game.)

Nike reaches a $252 million sponsorship deal with Ohio State. To echo a question I asked above, hell, why isn’t Ohio State free?

Via the International Business Times: “College Football: Public Universities Spend Millions On Stadiums, Despite Slim Chance For Payoff.”

University of Maryland claims sponsor’s chocolate milk helps concussion recovery” for high school football students.

“More than a quarter of all Division I colleges, 43 percent of all universities that play in the high-profile Football Bowl Subdivision and more than half the members of the Power Five conferences committed major violations of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules in the last decade,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“Disqualified after concussions, college football players recruited back onto the field,” STAT reports.

Via Inside Higher Ed: “National Collegiate Athletic Association releases new guidelines on dealing with the mental health of college athletes, an issue that remains a top concern for the association’s chief medical officer.”

The NCAA’s Division I council also “voted to give male basketball players more flexibility to test their professional sports options and return to college.”

The “NCAA punishes U of Louisiana-Lafayette over egregious case of test fraud – and the university in turn sues ACT over its role,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

From the HR Department


LAUSD hires Michelle King as its new superintendent, the first time an African American woman has held that position.

Detroit teachers have been staging a “sick out” to protest pay, class size, and the conditions of school buildings. As a result many schools have had to close this week.

“Maker Media Lays Off 17 Employees,” Edsurge reports.

The New York Times reports that “Joel Klein, Ex-New York Schools Chancellor, to Join Health Insurance Start-Up.” So I guess he’s done with the Amplify thing now?

Via The Root: “A New York City high school teacher is suing the city’s Department of Education and several school administrators after, she claims, she was fired over her lessons on the wrongly imprisoned Central Park Five for fear that it would ‘rile up’ black students.”

Via Inside Higher Ed: “The recent college graduate working in Starbucks is the nightmare of many parents and also of college admissions officers, who feel that stories about that stereotype discourage many prospective students. Two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday released a summary of their recent research that finds the stereotype to be false and the economic difficulties of recent college graduates to be overstated.”

According to Business Ethics Highlights, “adjunct justice” would cost universities $15–50 billion per year.

Upgrades and Downgrades


The new HBO-first Sesame Street looks awful.

Edsurge profiles the latest batch of startups participating in the ImagineK12 ed-tech accelerator.

Haiku Learning is sunsetting ActiveGrade (which it acquired two years ago).

Via Politico: “Conservative activist James O’Keefe, known for secretly recording his targets, is going after the Common Core in his latest video. It shows a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt saleswoman saying, ‘I hate kids’ and that ‘it’s all about the money.’ O’Keefe calls Common Core a scheme to make schools buy more textbooks. The publishing giant said it was ‘appalled’ by the woman’s comments, and she told the Washington Post that she had been fired.”

According to the USA Today, “Apple loses more ground to Google’s Chromebook in education market.”

Apple released a preview of features that will appear in iOS9.3 and that will help schools manage devices more easily. More via Edsurge.

Lego changes stance on bulk orders after Ai Weiwei exhibition controversy.”

These Are the American Library Association’s Picks for Best Children’s Literature.”

5 outrageous things educators can’t do because of copyright.”

Funding, Sales, and Acquisitions


The Apollo Education Group announced that it was exploring selling off the University of Phoenix, the biggest for-profit university in the US. More via Phil Hill.

“The Massive Decline In Larger Education Company Market Caps,” by Phil Hill.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is getting into the education philanthropy business.

Interfolio has raised $13.01 million from Quad Venture Partners, Blu Venture Investors, Blackboard’s founder Matthew Pittinsky, NextGen Angels, and Middleland Capital. The company has raised $13.94 million total.

CourseHorse has raised $4 million from Red Ventures. The local classes marketplace has raised $5.8 million total.

Noodle Markets has raised $3 million from Rethink Education and Palm Ventures.

“Branded MOOC platform” The Big Know has raised $3 million from LFE Capital and Capella Education Founder Steve Shank.

Platzi has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from Omidyar Network, 500 Startups, Nazca Ventures, Amasia Ventures, and Y Combinator.

Just Dakhila has raised $750,000 in seed funding from Ankur Gupta.

ExpertKnowledge has raised $725,000 in seed funding from The Edge Edtech Fund and Action Ventures.

Edsurge chronicles “Teachscape’s Tangled Tale” and its decision to sell its customer list and assets to Frontline Technologies.

Macmillan Learning has acquired Roberts and Company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hobsons has acquired PAR’s technology framework for predictive analytics. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Avnet has acquired IT training company ExitCertified. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Data, Privacy, and Surveillance


“Oral Roberts University is now requiring all freshmen to wear tracking devices to monitor their physical activity,” News on 6 reports. “It appears as though school staff and instructors will be able to access the fitness tracking information gathered by the students’ devices. ‘The Fitbit trackers will feed into the D2L gradebook, automatically logging aerobics points,’” according to the university’s website.

The opening paragraphs from Education Week’s look at “the future of big data and analytics” in education: “Imagine classrooms outfitted with cameras that run constantly, capturing each child’s every facial expression, fidget, and social interaction, every day, all year long. Then imagine on the ceilings of those rooms infrared cameras, documenting the objects that every student touches throughout the day, and microphones, recording every word that each person utters. Picture now the children themselves wearing Fitbit-like devices that track everything from their heart rates to their time between meals.” Imagine.

Coffee shops in the UK that run Wi-Fi networks might have to store internet data under new snooping laws, The Guardian reports.

Via The Washington Post: “The U.S. Education Department’s new planned system of records that will collect detailed data on thousands of students – and transfer records to private contractors – is being slammed by experts who say there are not adequate privacy safeguards embedded in the project.”

“Vtech, having leaked 6.3m kids’ data, now wants to run your home security,” Boing Boing reports.

The Tor Project still has not been able to get an answer as to whether or not Carnegie Mellon University worked with the FBI in order to de-anonymize the Tor browser’s users.

Via Techcrunch: “In Letter To Google CEO, Sen. Franken Raises Questions Regarding Student Data Collection.” (Bill Fitzgerald has more questions.)

Data and “Research”


A report by the World Bank finds that the Internet might widen inequality “and even hasten the hollowing out of middle-class employment.”

Via the Delta Cost Project: “Trends in College Spending: 2003–2013.”

Via the Hechinger Report: “Using computers widens the achievement gap in writing, a federal study finds.”

The Pew Research Center has released a report on “privacy and information sharing.”

The NMC has released a Horizon Report for Chinese K–12 education.

The future of education, according to those asked to describe it by the Times of London, is pretty horrifying.

“An awful lot of districts don't know what textbooks are used in their schools,” says USC professor Morgan Polikoff.

Via Education Week: “Analytics: 4 Lessons Schools Can Learn From the NBA (and Vice Versa).”

S&P has some thoughts about the outlook for higher ed finances.

“Talking toys” for babies and toddlers actually get in the way of language learning, NPR reports.

For the first time, New York City’s high school graduation rate is over 70%.

Ars Technica reports on a study about discrimination in science: “Give teachers a physics test from a woman and they’ll give her worse grades.” NPR reports, however, that “Pretty Girls Make (Higher) Grades.”

The Current State of Educational Blogging.”

Via Vox: “5 maps that show how sex education in the US is failing.”

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Audrey Watters


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